The new year is often a time to lay out plans for the upcoming 12 months, while at the same time looking back at the year that just ended. With 2015 in the rear-view mirror, Al Horford felt good about a calendar year that saw the Hawks win 58 regular-season games and two playoff series.

“There were a lot of positives for our team in 2015,”  Horford said. “I feel like we accomplished a lot. We took further steps than people expected.

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The Hawks had four days between the last game of 2015 and the first of 2016, giving them more time than usual to reflect. Head Coach Mike Budenholzer, who isn’t necessarily prone to retrospection, praised the Hawks’ players and faithful fans.

“I’m one of those guys that tries to just look forward,” Budenholzer chuckled. “It’s probably wise to be appreciative of everything that our players did on the court and off the court – and everything our fans are doing for us, in the arena and out of the arena. We can see and feel the fans everywhere we go.”

In summing up 2015, Horford said that he feels that the NBA evolves on an annual basis.

“The NBA game is changing so fast,” Horford said. “It’s year by year. From last year, there was a big change to this year in the way that the teams have the ability to shoot the ball from all positions, 1 though 5, and how that challenges you defensively. It’s one of those things where you go along with the flow and catch up and make adjustments.”

Of course, it works both ways. Perhaps more than any other NBA center, Horford stretches opposing defenses beyond their comfort zone. Against the Rockets last Tuesday, he made five three-point shots.

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“A lot of times when I was missing them, it felt good but they just weren’t falling. I just knew that if I just stayed patient and kept working on them — it’s not my priority, but it’s something that I do work on — then I was going to have a breakthrough and get hot. That’s what happened against Houston. It makes me feel good that the work is paying off.”

A lot of that work was done in the offseason. 2015 treated the Hawks well in one important regard: Horford was healthy in the summer for the first time in three years, and he came to training camp with even more range on his always-reliable jump shot.

In the end though, basketball seasons don’t match up with calendar years. The 2015-16 season will ultimately be measured less by the 2015 part and more by what happens in April and beyond.

The longest-tenured Hawk thinks that things are headed in the right direction.

“We haven’t reached our peak,” Horford said. “I still feel like we can get a lot better as a group.”

Story by KL Chouinard
Twitter: @KLChouinard

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